Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

BANK SOLICITED SWATTED FLIES IN 1919

Albion Recorder, January 18, 1999, pg. 4

One prominent structure in downtown Albion is the Irwin Block on the southest corner of E. Erie and St. Superior Streets. This building was named for Frank L. Irwin (1863-1947), a local businessman. He was the son of banker Samuel V. Irwin of the First National Bank of Albion, after whom Irwin Avenue was named. Frank served as Albion City Treasurer in 1896, and was our local postmaster from 1898 to 1910.

The Irwin Block was erected in 1893, and was the first location of the Commerical and Savings Bank from 1893 to 1917. In addition to the bank occupying the ground floor, various offices were located in the second and third stories of the Irwin Block. Many residents remember this builidng being the site of the Sullivan’s ice cream and restaurant establishment through the 1960s. Today of course a restaurant still is located here, as the downtown Albion tradition continues.

The bank was organized in 1893 and for many years was known as “the bank on the corner.” First president of this institution was John G. Brown (1850-1909), a school board member and an 1871 graduate of Albion College. The first cashier was Palmer Montgomery Dearing (1865-1932), who 20 years later would be sent to prison as part of the Albion National Bank failure. For nearly forty years beginning in 1912, president of the bank was Homer C. Blair (1872-1972), a former Albion druggist. The bank was merged with the Jackson City Bank and Trust Company in 1955, and became known as City Bank after that.

The Commercial and Savings Bank moved to the remodeled 1845-built Stone Mill on S. Superior St. on New Year’s Day, 1917. Just a couple of years after the move, the Commercial and Savings Bank offered a unique promotional of which has not been repeated since. Was it a new electric toaster for patrons? Was it a fountain pen or a calendar? The answer is “no” to all of these.

Rather, the bank offered to pay money for all the dead flies that were brought into its establishment. The March 31, 1919 issue of the Albion Recorder records the details in an article entitled, “Slaughter the Flies.” It stated: “Thirty-four children brought swatted flies to the Commercial and Savings Bank last Saturday night. One cent a dozen was paid and 367 dozen, or 4,404 flies were brought in. One boy brought 40 dozen. The children who are bringing the largest number of flies are trapping them at the slaughter houses. This doesn’t seem quite fair, for the slaughter houses are outside the city limits, and the principle involved in getting children to swat and trap flies is to encourage them to make their own premises flyless. One cent will be paid for two dozen flies tonight.” One may wonder what advertising firm thought up this matchless promotional for the bank?

This week we present a 1914 postcard photograph of the Irwin Block. Notice the several chimneys on the roof. Back then coal was the main source of fuel in the wintertime. The name “Commercial & Savings Bank” appears in the window, below the decorative leaded glass. Notice also the large striped cloth awnings over the windows, and the mail box on the corner in front of the building.

To the left of the building on E. Erie St. in this photo is the Andrew Emmons Music Store, and after that in the building displaying four arches is a billiards parlor, formerly owned by August Waldvogel. To the left of that is the Murdock Block, which housed the Albion Recorder for many years. Picture postcards from the 1910s feature local scenes and are often an excellent source for research. They confirm and reveal which businesses were in what building at a particular time, something which may not be found in city directories due to their irregular years printing. I am always looking for photographs of Albion to feature here in this column, such as the one pictured this week.


Commercial & Savings Bank

Next: EZRA CORNELL HAD CLOSE ALBION TIES


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